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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

There are two crunch clashes at opposite ends of the Division 1B table on Saturday afternoon, as leaders Buccaneers visit their closest challengers UL Bohemians and bottom side Dolphin look to halt Shannon’s recent resurgence.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, February 18

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYNAHINCH (4th) v GALWEGIANS (9th), Ballymacarn Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WLWLLWLLWWWL; Galwegians: LWLLLLLLWLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 49; Tries: Jordan Grattan 5; Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 53; Tries: Cormac Brennan 6

Preview: Two teams who could do with a positive result, especially second-from-bottom Galwegians who return to Ulster just a week on from their frustrating 14-13 loss at Ballymena.

‘Wegians are without Ed O’Keeffe and Conor Lowndes who are away with the Ireland Sevens squad this weekend, while Ballynahinch’s injury list includes Craig Trenier, Jonny Simpson, Lorcan Dow and Aaron Cairns.

‘Hinch won 30-24 out west in early November and they should complete the double over Brian McClearn’s men, with in-form centre Jordan Grattan hunting for his third try in as many games.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 9, 2016: Ballynahinch 33 Galwegians 16, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 5, 2016: Galwegians 24 Ballynahinch 30, Crowley Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

DOLPHIN (10th) v SHANNON (8th), Irish Independent Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Dolphin: LLWLLLWWLLLL; Shannon: LLLLLWLDLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 57; Tries: John Fitzgerald, Ryan Murphy 3 each; Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 42; Tries: Shane Mullally, Riley Winter, Conor Glynn, Niall Mulcahy 3 each

Preview: Shannon could put some significant distance between themselves and bottom side Dolphin with their fourth straight win since Tom Hayes took over as head coach.

Hayes and backs coach David O’Donovan have overseen some excellent results, including last week’s derby success against promotion-chasing UL Bohemians, and Shannon could climb to seventh by tomorrow evening.

You cannot write off David Corkery’s Dolphin, though. They are capable of turning it on at home where they claimed the scalps of Galwegians and Naas earlier in the campaign.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 9, 2016: Dolphin 3 Shannon 13, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, November 5, 2016: Shannon 17 Dolphin 10, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

OLD WESLEY (6th) v BALLYMENA (5th), Donnybrook

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWLWWWLDWLLL; Ballymena: WWLWLLWWLDLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 117; Tries: Ger Finucane, Paul Harte 4 each; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 48; Tries: Rodger McBurney, Mark Best, James Beattie 4 each

Preview: This is a tricky time for Old Wesley who have lost their last three games. Another defeat could leave them in limbo between the promotion chasers and the relegation battle below.

Injuries, including the loss of the division’s top scorer Barry McLaughlin (117 points), have hampered Wesley’s selection in recent rounds. Flanker and captain Darren Horan has provided some inspiration with two tries over the last fortnight.

Their visitors Ballymena have been battling injuries too, but they did get back to winning ways against Galwegians last Saturday. Ulster’s Brett Herron is set to start at out-half, with Mark Best and skipper Martin Irwin pairing up in midfield.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 2, 2016: Ballymena 48 Old Wesley 0, Eaton Park; Saturday, November 5, 2016: Ballymena 25 Old Wesley 27, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

UCC (7th) v NAAS (3rd), the Mardyke

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UCC: LLWLWLWLLLWW; Naas: WLLWWWLWLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 105; Tries: Conor Barry 5; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 97; Tries: Fionn Carr 6

Preview: Undoubtedly two of the best performers from round 12, with UCC scoring six tries against Ballynahinch and Naas running in five at home to Dolphin.

So, a high-scoring and entertaining clash looks likely here. If it remains tight, there are two top class kickers to call upon in UCC winger Kevin O’Keeffe (105 points) and Naas scrum half Peter Osborne (97).

The Kildare men have been the more consistent operators and must be backed to continue their winning run. Ireland Under-20-capped prop Adam Coyle continues to look the part in a solid Naas front row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 5, 2016: UCC 15 Naas 20, the Mardyke; Saturday, November 5, 2016: Naas 10 UCC 6, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

UL BOHEMIANS (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (1st), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: UL Bohemians: WWWWWLWLWWLL; Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWWDWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 71; Tries: Finbar Aherne 6; Buccaneers: Points: Alan Gaughan 107; Tries: Jordan Conroy 13

Preview: Leaders Buccaneers come calling at what seems a difficult time for UL Bohemians. The Limerick outfit are licking their wounds after back-to-back defeats, including a disappointing reversal to local rivals Shannon.

Those results have seen Buccs push 11 points clear at the summit, but with the Pirates’ top try scorer Jordan Conroy (13 tries) and Shane Layden both on Ireland Sevens duty this weekend, UL are hoping to take advantage of their absence.

Bohs have to come out firing and Kiwi out-half Rick McKenna could have a key influence on proceedings. He faces a mouth-watering match-up with Buccs number 10 Alan Gaughan who is scoring points for fun of late.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 2, 2016: Buccaneers 18 UL Bohemians 7, Dubarry Park; Saturday, November 5, 2016: Buccaneers 49 UL Bohemians 17, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win